France looks to AI-powered surveillance to secure Olympics
PARIS, March 23 (Reuters) – France’s National Assembly on Thursday approved the use of artificial intelligence (AI) video surveillance during the 2024 Paris Olympics, despite warnings from civil rights groups that the technology poses a threat to civil liberties.
The government says algorithmic video surveillance can detect “pre-determined events”, abnormal behavior and crowd surges, helping to ensure the safety of millions of tourists expected to flood the French capital next summer.
Favorable preliminary votes in the Senate and Assembly cleared the biggest legislative hurdles, although they could be challenged at the highest constitutional court.
If formally adopted, France would become the first country in the European Union to legalize AI-powered surveillance. That would set a worrying surveillance precedent, a group of several dozen European lawmakers said last week.
To justify the technology, Stephane Mazars, an MP from President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party, said that “France will have to stand up to the whole world to face the biggest security challenge in its history.”
The plan to deploy AI surveillance has faced strong resistance from rights groups such as Amnesty International and digital rights groups. They argue the technology poses a threat to civil liberties and draws a dangerous line in the sand.
The text was voted in favor by a margin of 59-17 in the 577-seat chamber.
The debate in France comes as the European Union discusses its own AI law, a landmark piece of EU legislation regulating the use of artificial intelligence in Europe that has been in the works for more than two years.
Apart from the uses of AI by companies, the EU law will also look at AI used in the public sector and law enforcement.
France’s privacy watchdog, CNIL, supports the French government’s bill on the condition that no biometric data is processed. Proponents of the bill say it is, but privacy specialists are skeptical.
“You can do two things: object detection or analysis of human behavior – the latter is the processing of biometric data,” says Daniel Leufer, policy adviser at the digital rights organization Access Now, which publicly advocates for the banning of biometric data collection. gaps in the EU’s AI law.
Ruling party lawmaker Sacha Houlie, who chairs parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, told the House of Commons that AI could have helped prevent the 2016 Nice attack by tracking the movements of a truck used to drive through ‘ to plow a crowd, to identify as suspicious. The technology could also have helped prevent crowd chaos at last year’s Champions League final in Paris, he said.
Both the Senate and the Assembly have now passed the bill. A joint chamber committee will seek a compromise on any differences in the text agreed upon during the debate.
Access Now’s Leufer questioned the usefulness of AI in detecting would-be attackers because of the complexity in training algorithms for rare incidents.
“AI is not good at that type of thing (because) at a technical level, you have to give a machine loads of examples,” he said.
Reporting by Layli Foroudi; Editing by Richard Lough and Richard Chang
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.